I’ve been wondering how I would feel on Sunday morning.
Would I be overcome with emotion? Would I be nervous? Or filled with excitement?
It turned out that “all of the above” was the correct choice. But there was something else.
More than anything, I had that feeling you get when you walk in the door after a very long journey. Sunday was the day our church has been anticipating for weeks, months, years… more than a decade really. After meeting in schools since the church was started 12 years ago, we had our first service at very own permanent church home.
In a way, the journey to get to this day felt like a stay at a nice hotel. During the last six years, we’ve been holding our services at a high school, which probably doesn’t sound that luxurious. But we’ve been blessed to use the school’s multi-million dollar, 900-seat auditorium, with its state-of-the-art sound system, massive stage and gazillion-foot-high ceiling. So, we were a little afraid that moving into our new 420-seat auditorium might feel like a downgrade.
More often, the journey felt like camping. We had to schlep two trailers full of sound equipment, instruments, toys, signs, coffee makers and more back and forth, in and out, every Sunday morning. No matter what your destination or what you experience along the way, living out of a suitcase gets old.
The journey has been full of obstacles. During the last year and a half since we located the building we wanted to purchase, we have faced the opposition of neighbors who didn’t want us to buy the space, moments when we thought we couldn’t possibly pay for it, and then even the last-minute critique of inspectors.
And the journey definitely has not been easy. Like so many families in our church, we have made the choice to give up things we would like for our family to be able to give more of our finances to the church. As a staff member, just when I thought I couldn’t work any more, my family was willing to sacrifice time together so I could do a little bit more. And then we started spending Saturday mornings helping with construction and clean-up while the dust and messiness piled up at our own house. Those were sacrifices that lots and lots of people made to help our church get into this facility.
I realized I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the people who might come. How can we effectively communicate our message to the general public? How can we invite people who might be searching for something more in life? How can we let the community know that we are here?
We had scheduled this past Sunday as a “practice run” for our current body before our grand opening service this coming weekend. But I was still much more nervous than usual thinking of the new guests who might show up. Then there were all of the unknowns: Where should I sit? How should I get on stage to do announcements? How will things sound? Will people care that all of the carpet and furniture haven’t arrived yet? Or that we still have unpacked boxes?
When I walked into the auditorium and heard the band practicing, that was when the wave of emotion hit me. “We’re here! This is really happening!” I was fighting back tears as I walked through the lobby and the offices and the kids’ area.
Then, everyone arrived and we settled in for our first worship song together. We had been in that huge high school auditorium for the last seven years, and although the space was great, people sat in far off corners with sound drifting into the high ceiling and fading away. Now, we were sitting shoulder to shoulder, all of our voices praising God as one. The voices were so loud. So unified. So full of worship.
That’s when I could finally put a name to that feeling in my heart.